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Reading Up: A Q&A with Book Buyer Lauren Gallagher

Art books to help us engage, escape, and explore

Now more than ever, great reads can transport us to inspiring words outside our homes. We caught up with our product manager for books, Lauren Gallagher, to ask her not just what to read, but how.


Even though The Met’s galleries are closed, we can still get inspired by beautiful art and exhibitions. Any exhibition catalogues you’d recommend?

Photography’s Last Century: The Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Collection is a who’s who of 20th-century photographers. Anybody who is anybody, from Walker Evans to Man Ray to Gregory Crewdson to Cindy Sherman, is in the book. I like that it is personal, offering insights from the collector who has lived with these photographs for years.  


How do art books and catalogues supplement the experience of looking at art in galleries?

An exhibition catalogue—like the fabulous Sahel: Art and Empires on the Shores of the Sahara—is essentially a director’s cut. It offers permanent access: You can pick it up and put it down on your own time, at your leisure. And unlike an exhibition, it is always available for repeat viewings!


What’s an older Met catalogue you’d recommend revisiting?

It’s spring, and around the world parks and gardens are closed because of quarantine. Public Parks Private Gardens: Paris to Provence offers an escape to 19th-century France under the spell of Impressionism. It features verdant works by Cézanne, Manet, Monet, Van Gogh, Seurat, and more, while discussing the rising importance of parks—both public and private—in society at that time.


We’re all looking for new things to learn while we’re staying at home. What can we read now to make the most of our time?   

Like many people right now, I spend a lot of time staring out the window, and my desk faces a pre-war, red brick apartment building across the street. It is very New York, and in its own way it is as iconic to New York’s landscape as the Chrysler Building or the Flatiron. How to Read New York: A Crash Course in Big Apple Architecture is an inviting, accessible exploration of New York City’s buildings and architectural styles offering an armchair tour while our town is off limits.

Cooking can get old during quarantine, but it can also bring joy. Using recipes Monet actually served at his famous yellow dining room at Giverny, Monet Cookbook transports you to his luscious gardens and features archival photos of the gatherings he hosted there.


Which is your favorite time of day for reading?

On a work day, evening. On the weekends, midday into early afternoon. And again in the evening.

Shop a full assortment of exhibition catalogues and art books at store.metmuseum.org.


  1. One of my friends received, as a gift, a book of short stories about the MET. The one that I read is about a janitor (I believe) who, after he died, the employees of the MET discovered an incredible artistic paper model of the MET.
    I’m not sure if I’m recalling correctly, but I hope I have enough info for you to guide me to the book of short stories about the MET.
    Thank you,
    Maria Harris

    1. Hi Maria,

      Thanks for writing. Was it a recent publication? Metropolitan Stories: A Novel by Christine Coulson came out last year. Perhaps that’s it? We don’t currently offer it for sale on our website, but it should be in print and available from other book sellers.


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